Lot 11
  • 11

Lucio Fontana

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Lucio Fontana
  • Concetto Spaziale, Attese
  • signed, titled and inscribed volevo andare a Albissola ma il tempo era cattivo on the reverse
  • waterpaint on canvas
  • 73.5 by 60.5cm.; 29 by 23 7/8 in.
  • Executed in 1965.


Studio Casoli, Milan

Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1984


Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures, Sculptures, et Environnements Spatiaux Rédigé par Enrico Crispolti, Vol. II, Brussels 1974, p. 167, no. 65 T 115, illustrated

Enrico Crispolti,  Fontana: Catalogo Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p. 580, no. 65 T 115, illustrated

Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 766, no. 65 T 115, illustrated

Catalogue Note

A congregation of five elongated slashes traverses the surface of Concetto Spaziale, Attese, their inclinations wavering delicately left and right, as if expressing a communal body language. Executed in 1965, the present work is an exquisite example of Lucio Fontana’s most celebrated series – the Tagli, or in English “cuts” – whereby he painted and then slashed a canvas with a knife blade. Arriving several years after the first Tagli were created in 1958, Concetto Spaziale, Attese expresses the refinement and subtlety characteristic of Fontana’s mature career.

The Tagli embody violence and passion as much as they communicate grace. Professor Philip Shaw has written “the sense in which such work holds creative and destructive elements in tension has a clear connection with the comingling of pain and pleasure that are distinctive features of the sublime. Where Fontana goes further, however, is in his unstinting focus on the unconscious links between sublimity, terror, and sexuality” (Philip Shaw, ‘Sublime Sexuality: Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept ‘Waiting’ in: Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding, Eds., The Art of the Sublime, Tate Publications, January 2013, online resource). A multivalent concept, the sublime has inspired and tormented artists of diverse movements for centuries. In its simplest form, it signifies “the movement of desire” – a gesture of reaching towards something hidden or lost, immeasurably significant and spatially vast (Philip Shaw, ‘Modernism and the Sublime’ in: ibid). Concetto Spaziale and its sister canvases encapsulate this gesture of searching in isolated, decisive movements – the incision of a knife blade through the picture plane. 

Towards the end of his career, following the invention of many series such as the Fine di Dio, the Teatrini, and the Natura, among others, Fontana increasingly settled his attention upon the purest distillation of his revolutionary gesture: the white Tagli canvas. In the dynamic aspiration of the sublime, Fontana found expression for the contemporary drive to colonise outer space, and send humans to terrains hitherto unknown. The ‘opening up’ of space captured his imagination, and ultimately convinced him that traditional art forms would soon face extinction and instead replaced by his concept of “Spatial Art.”

Concetto Spaziale, Attese therefore has a corrective and final nature. Fontana has pushed the boundaries of conventional easel painting as far as they will reach, gesturing to their transformation and eventual demise. On this razor edge, the present work captures both pain and glory, and radiates a blithesome intensity. Its pristine white surface precludes any thought of representational content, emphasising by contrast the very real depths behind the canvas. In Fontana’s mind, this space – accessed by puncturing the canvas – is infinite, signifying a new universe of artistic possibility. Sharing the forward-looking orientation of Futurism, Fontana took it for granted that space travel would be achieved, and adapted his art practice in anticipation, truly defining the fearlessness of an avant-garde thinker (also captured by the suffix Attese – “anticipations”).

His personal attitude to this future, however, was ambivalent – he acknowledged the chaos, confusion, and pain inherent to such extreme exploration. Fontana explained: “the man who flies in space is a new type of titan, with new sensations, especially painful ones" (Lucio Fontana quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Lucio Fontana: Paintings, Sculptures and Drawings, 2005, p. 31). The struggling central figure of The Laocoön, a paragon of sublime pathos from Hellenic Greece, encapsulates this embattled position. Wrestling serpents sent by the god Apollo to kill him, the figure’s desperate strength is as profoundly beautiful as it is futile, given that he fights fate. Expressing all of the purity, passion, and expert skill that characterised Fontana’s execution of the Tagli by 1965, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a masterful example of this career-defining series.